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Mar-17-2012 12:44printcomments

11-Year-Old Travels Alone Across Ghana for Chance to Receive Surgery

Fuseina's Journey to a New Smile.

Photos by Brooke Gordon and Peter Stuckings, Operation Smile
Photos by Brooke Gordon and Peter Stuckings, Operation Smile

(ACCRA, Ghana) - Among the 200 patients we screened in Accra, Fuseina inspired us all with her courage and perseverance.

Hailing from a rural village in Ghana, Fuseina works on her family’s farm and was never afforded the opportunity to go to school because of her cleft lip.

Our volunteers learned during screening that she had traveled over 10 hours by bus to Accra with the hope of receiving cleft lip surgery. A mere 11 years old, she made the trek by herself, unaccompanied by her parents.

Although she only spoke a local language that very few understood, we were amazed at her outgoing and friendly nature, even in the face of the unknown. It was clear to the entire team, despite the language barrier, that she was determined to come home with a new smile.

Ridge Hospital in Accra graciously became her guardian, which allowed her to receive surgery. Hospital staff, Operation Smile volunteers, and other patients and their guardians made sure she was cared for, while staying at the shelter awaiting her turn for surgery or recovering in post-op.

We could only imagine the look on her parents’ faces when Fuseina arrived home with bright, new smile! Her perseverance, as well as the hospitality she received, remains a testament to our volunteers’ generous hearts and Operation Smile’s mission to change children’s lives.

Operation Smile’s first international medical mission in Ghana in more than 20 years screened over 200 potential patients at the capital city’s Ridge Hospital, and selected 110 for free surgeries this week.

Operation Smile Programs Manager, Kia Guarino, said overwhelming community involvement has been key to getting this mission off the ground.

“We have support from over 30 partner organizations, and before the mission even began we were able to credential five Ghanaian medical professionals, not to mention enlisting the help of 40 local volunteers,” she said.

Ghana is a vibrant and colorful West African nation of around 25 million people, where potentially tens of thousands of people with cleft lips and palates await treatment. So Operation Smile has their work cut out.

Along with the Ghanaian medical volunteers, there are international volunteers from Italy, the U.S., the U.K., Sweden, Kenya and South Africa.

The mission is winding up this Friday with a farewell party for the diverse team. Not only have 110 lives been changed forever, but the team has formed friendships and understandings of each other’s cultures that will thrive for years to come.

6-year-old Samuel and his father Abraham made their way to screening in Accra in the hope of receiving a free surgery for his cleft lip. (Peter Stuckings/​Operation Smile)

The result​ and the look in Abraham's eyes speak for themselves. Here 6-year-old Samuel and his father are thrilled with the outcome of his operation the day after his surgery. (Peter Stuckings/​Operation Smile)

- Photos by Peter Stuckings, Photographer, Operation Smile

December 7, 2011

Rachel Roper, Program Coordinator, Operation Smile

In total we have completed 78 surgeries and 202 patients so far. Today we have completed 28 surgeries.

Our speech pathologists and dentists worked especially hard to ensure that many patients received obturators and speech lessons.

- Photos by Brooke Gordon, Outcomes Data Fellow, Operation Smile

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AmandaBlack March 18, 2012 8:57 pm (Pacific time)

What a wonderful report regarding "Operation Smile", and the many volunteers to help those, who travelled long distances to receive the operation they need to function normally. I hope there will always be people who volunteers their professional services to the needy in Africa. Indeed, amn inspiring report.

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